More available than hardwoods, these woods are typically less expensive. They can be a good choice, depending on use and preference. Because surfaces are generally softer than hardwoods, they require extra care to avoid marring or denting.
Cedar: Brown to white. Often used for drawer lining or for decorative panels. Only eastern red cedar is naturally moth-repellent. Commonly used for outdoor furniture.
Pine (white): Because it was readily available and easy to work with, white pine was used for many primitive pieces. Poor resistance to shrinking, swelling, and warping. The softness of the wood is why many of these old pieces show traces of wear. Vintage pieces are valued for the patina and reasonable cost and are also frequently painted.
Pine (yellow): Tan, orange, yellow. Grainy, and does not finish well. Not a good choice for exposed wood.
See more wood types below.
Composites are manufactured wood products. Prices and performance vary. They are commonly used to make shelving and on the backs of furniture. Composites may also be used for some modern styles of furniture.
Plywood: Usually white to tan. Multiple layers of thin sheets of wood are glued and pressed together. Strong and resistant to warping, shrinking, and swelling. Most often used as support. Some contemporary furniture is manufactured from plywood, which can be shaped and bent into permanent contours.
Particleboard: Usually light to medium brown. Made of sawdust, small wood chips, and glue or resin that have been mixed together and pressure-treated. It is a common component of inexpensive furniture that is covered with laminates or veneers.
Particleboard splits easily and often the veneer or laminate pops loose when the particleboard swells and shrinks with moisture changes. A similar product called hardboard is made under higher pressure, which creates an improved product.
Continued on page 3: Veneers and Laminates